The Campaign Spot

Susan Rice’s Greatest Hits, Going Well Beyond Benghazi

If, indeed, President Obama’s choice to be the next secretary of state is the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, perhaps it is worth looking beyond her record on Benghazi. Just about four years ago, I laid out some of these greatest hits . . .

From April 1994:

At an interagency teleconference in late April, Susan Rice, a rising star on the NSC who worked under Richard Clarke, stunned a few of the officials present when she asked, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?” Lieutenant Colonel Tony Marley remembers the incredulity of his colleagues at the State Department. “We could believe that people would wonder that,” he says, “but not that they would actually voice it.” Rice does not recall the incident but concedes, “If I said it, it was completely inappropriate, as well as irrelevant.”

A smear piece, Obama’s defenders will likely claim. A biased correspondent.

The author of that piece? Samantha Power, a former foreign-policy adviser to the Obama campaign, whom the president then appointed to the National Security Council staff, and served as a special assistant to the president on human rights. (I wonder if Power and Rice had some awkward meetings in recent years . . .)

On February 28, 2008, Rice insisted “there had been no contact” between Obama adviser Austan Goolsbee and representatives of the Canadian government. There in fact had been a meeting.

On March 6, 2008, Rice said of Obama and Hillary Clinton, “they’re both not ready to have that 3 am phone call.”

On May 12, 2008, she told the New York Times that Obama had not pledged to meet unconditionally with Iran or any other “rogue” state, despite what he had just said at the YouTube debate.

On July 1, 2008, she insisted that Obama’s pledge to get all combat troops out of Iraq in 16 months was not a deadline.

On July 21, 2008, she said Obama “bows to nobody in his understanding of this world.” (A particularly ironic word choice, considering how Obama has greeted foreign monarchs during his presidency.)

After Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, she declared that the “aggressive,” “belligerent” actor in the situation was . . . John McCain.

A recent Dana Milbank column laid out other . . . ignoble moments:

Back when she was an assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration, she appalled colleagues by flipping her middle finger at Richard Holbrooke during a meeting with senior staff at the State Department, according to witnesses. Colleagues talk of shouting matches and insults.

And clearly someone in the Obama administration isn’t a fan of Rice, otherwise you wouldn’t see comments like this one to Maureen Dowd:

“She saw this as a great opportunity to go out and close the stature gap,” said one administration official. “She was focused on the performance, not the content. People said, ‘It’s sad because it was one of her best performances.’ But it’s not a movie, it’s the news. Everyone in politics thinks, you just get your good talking points and learn them and reiterate them on camera. But what if they’re not good talking points? What if what you’re saying isn’t true, even if you’re saying it well?””

The touting of Rice often comes to her record as ambassador to the United Nations, citing the sanctions on Iran and the ability to get China and Russia on board. Of course, this little detail is overlooked:

Still, the resolution fell short of the “crippling sanctions” that she had pledged to impose on Iran a year ago, and the Obama administration was unable to secure a unanimous vote at the Security Council, as the Bush administration did on other sanctions resolutions on Iran.

The administration did succeed in preserving support from China and Russia, although only after assuring them that the measures would not impair their ability to continue trading with Tehran.

Make enough exceptions, and any sanctions policy will eventually be acceptable.

The strongest argument for Susan Rice is that the president ought to be able to appoint his preferred people to executive-branch positions. And there’s a certain perverse logic to Rice; having proven, repeatedly, that she will lie for the president, her appointment will assure the world that the secretary of state indeed speaks for the president.

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